December 17, 2012
Israel approves 1,500 more settler homes in East Jerusalem
Israel approved plans to build 1,500 more Jewish settler homes in East Jerusalem on Monday, an official said, days after provoking international protests against a project for another 3,000 such homes.
Washington had condemned the latest plans, for Orthodox neighborhood Ramat Shlomo, when they were published during a 2010 visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Palestinians see the settlements as obstacles to achieving independent statehood. The settlements have been condemned by many countries, and the latest project is slated to be built on a portion of West Bank land Israel annexed as part of Jerusalem, in a move never recognized internationally.
"We condemn in the strongest possible terms these Israeli actions and the determination of Israel to continue expanding settlements and in the process undermining the two-state solution," said senior Palestinian Authority official Saeb Erekat.
"These are very dangerous and alarming steps. The Israeli government is showing its determination to contravene the will of the international community," the top peace negotiator said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged last week to build at least 3,000 more settler homes on West Bank land as an expression of Israel's objections to a United Nations vote last month recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Those plans led to a string of Israeli diplomats summoned for reprimands across Europe.
Israeli Interior Ministry spokeswoman, Efrat Orbach, said on Monday a district planning commission "gave preliminary approval for" the Ramat Shlomo project which must pass a series of bureaucratic decisions before construction may actually begin.
Israeli, Palestinian Authority peace talks have been frozen since late 2010, largely due to a dispute over the settlements, which the International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled as illegal, a decision Israel disputes.
Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Additional reporting by Noah Browning in Ramallah; Editing by Louise Ireland